Supreme Court permits Italian ship to leave
The Supreme Court Wednesday allowed the release from a Kerala port of Italian ship M.V. Enrica Lexie, from which two marines shot dead two Indian fishermen Feb 15, suspecting them to be pirates. The marines will, however, continue to remain in a Kerala jail.
The court accepted the Italian government's assurance that it would ensure the presence of the four other marines who were on board the ship at the time of the incident if and when they are summoned by an Indian court.
"We accept the assurance given by the Republic of Italy that the presence of four marines if required by any court or investigating officer or any lawful authority would be ensured," said the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale.
The court made it clear that no legal proceedings arising out of the shooting of the two Indian fishermen would come "in the way or impede" the voyage of M.V. Enrica Lexie, which is presently at a port in Kerala.
The court also recorded the statement of the Italian government that the four marines would have the right to challenge the summons seeking their presence before the competent court.
The four other marines could also be required by the investigating officer probing the killing of the Indian fishermen and they will make themselves available as per the Italian government's assurance.
The ship would embark on its onward journey from India only after its master, the managing director of the shipping company and the managing director of the shipping agents handling the ship gave an undertaking before the registrar general of the Kerala High Court, the court said.
The undertaking would state that the ship and its master and five crew members would appear before the court as and when summoned.
A bond of Rs.3 crore will also be executed to protect the guarantee of the ship M.V. Enrica Lexie and securing the presence of the master of the ship and five crew members if needed.
"We want to make it clear that in the controversy before us we are not directly concerned with the correctness, legality and validity of settlement between the Republic of Italy and the victims/claimants", the judges aid.
The Italian government has given Rs.1 crore each to the kin of two fishermen who were killed by two Italian marines.
The settlement, described by Italy as a goodwill gesture, became a centre of controversy as it had clauses which provided for capping all legal proceedings and thwarting the administration of justice in the case.
The apex court said the Kerala government was "free to take appropriate legal recourse in challenging the settlement".
The court recorded the statement of senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam that the Kerala government did not have any "serious objections" if M.V. Enrica Lexie was allowed to commence its voyage.
While permitting the ship to set sail, the court noted the position of the Kerala government that M.V. Enrica Lexie was not a subject of the trial.
The court also noted that the Indian government did not accept the correctness of the assertion made by the Italian government in its statement before the apex court that the incident occurred in international matters.
The order recorded the statement of Attorey General G.E. Vahanvati that the "union of India did not have a position independent of the state of Kerala".
It also noted that the Kerala government had vehemently opposed the Italian government's statement, saying it was not acceptable.
The central and Kerala governments said that the Italian government's statement would not prejudice the legal proceedings arising out of the Feb 15 incident.
Two Italian marines, Chief Master Sergeant Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone, are in judicial custody since Feb 20 and are lodged at the Thiruvananthapuram Central Jail for the killings.